Thursday, August 17, 2006

France Dismisses Bribe Taking Trio from Moscow's French Embassy

Visitors' papers are checked in front of the French embassy in Moscow (picture and caption from the BBC news website).

This wouldn’t be funny but for the fact that this gives the Russians two huge blunders this week. Granted, if I were to count the American blunders I’d probably be blogging 24/7, but I’ll admit my bias.

Granted, the first Russian blunder of this week isn’t funny at all. In fact, it's more than a blunder as someone lost his life. That’s yesterday’s shooting death of a Japanese fisherman in the disputed Kuril/Northern Territories region at the hands of the Russian border patrol.

However, when I read the headline for this one today I couldn’t help but shake my head and chuckle.

This is because the one time I was in Russia everyone was crying poor, and anytime I speak to a Russian they claim they’re one step shy of absolute poverty. Now I realize that Russia is poor right now. The Russian Federation is dealing with the growing pains of emerging from communism to a market economy and a democracy. In the meantime they’re dealing with a lot of change and the corruption that comes with it. However, it seems to be used as an excuse for the high amount of corruption that is there. I mean it's like making the argument that the drug dealer in the neighborhood where I grew up was poor and thus "forced" to deal drugs rather than stay in school. Yes, I know that people do make that argument, but I've angered more than a few people with the personal responsibility angle I take on these issues.

When I was running through the streets of Vladivostok, I saw most of the young women dressed up like they’d just stepped out of a music video complete with bling, great shoes and beautiful outfits. In fact, one of the people I was with observed that it’s a phenomenon that comes with the newly moneyed and newly liberated. He said they were “wearing their paychecks and savings.” That’s what it seemed like because, at the time, I was on a cruise ship with people who are eons more better off than me on my salary and we all thought the dress we saw on our day in Vladivostok was pretty extravagant.

So, in some cases, that might be true that they’re very poor, but these were French Embassy employees. I’m going to take a chance here and assume that France will pay their employees at least a fair living wage. Since taking kickbacks is pure greed, I got a chuckle out of this story: France fires Moscow visa workers. Another reason I find it amusing is because since I’ve been abroad I’ve acquired quite a few visas. It’s never fun standing in line or giving up your passport for a few days to get a stamp even if that stamp lets you travel somewhere new and exotic. I love it when my passport can get turned around in less than 24 hours. I just wouldn't pay someone under the table to do it.

French media allege that officials at the consulate were taking bribes 10 to 20 times higher than the standard fee of 35 euro (£23.70) in order to speed up the delivery of visas.

French foreign ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said the dismissed employees were not suspected of visa trafficking but that "funds were in certain cases misappropriated due to anomalies in the handling of some applications". (click here for the full BBC article)
More articles on this story:
Visa-Free Procedures Led to Corruption Scandal
Visa scam at French consulate in Moscow

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